Understanding Lyme Disease

by Dr. Lauren Ritchey, HSHA Veterinarian 


What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis) is an illness that affects both dogs and humans and is transmitted through tick bites. Lyme disease CANNOT be transmitted from one pet to another or from pet to human through direct contact (only through tick bites).


What are the signs of Lyme disease in dogs?

Most dogs infected with Lyme do not show any signs at all. They may come up positive on blood tests but never develop any clinical signs of the disease. If they are in the minority of dogs that do show signs of the disease they may display the following signs/symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lameness/Limping
  • Joint swelling
  • Decreased activity
  • Pain


How do I know if my dog has Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is diagnosed through a blood test that shows whether a dog has been exposed to the bacteria.


Can Lyme disease be treated?

Antibiotics usually provide effective treatment for Lyme disease. A month long course of antibiotic is often prescribed to dogs that test positive for Lyme during their time at HSHA. If a dog is showing signs of the disease they may also be prescribed pain medication, anti-inflammatories or require other supportive care.


Will my dog require any special veterinary care in the future?

While most dogs that test positive for Lyme never show any clinical symptoms, it is possible for some dogs to develop signs in the future. Should your dog develop any of the previously described signs, please contact your veterinarian as soon as possible to discuss medical evaluation and treatment options. In some cases, Lyme disease can cause problems with other organ systems like the kidneys or heart. Your veterinarian may recommend annual blood and/or urine testing to monitor your dog’s health.


How can I prevent my dog from contracting Lyme disease?

  • Use reliable tick-preventive products. Speak with your veterinarian about what tick preventive product is right for your pet.
  • Work with your veterinarian to decide whether to vaccinate your dog against Lyme disease. Your veterinarian’s advice may depend on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle and overall health, and other factors.
  • When possible, avoid areas where ticks might be found. These include tall grasses, marshes and wooded areas.
  • Check for ticks on both yourself and your animals once indoors.
  • Clear shrubbery next to homes.
  • Keep lawns well maintained.


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